Just in time for the holidays, research out of Naomi Halas‘s group at Rice University shows that nanoparticles can do what we’ve been waiting for all along: distill alcohol. The Halas group is known for making gold nanoshells, consisting of a 60-120nm silica core coated with 10-20nm of gold. The silica core is made colloidally by reacting silica monomers in the presence of a micellar surfactant. Then, the gold shell is applied by reducing gold ions on the surface of the silica.

These nanoparticles have interesting optical properties, including absorbances in the near infrared. The group has used these nanoshells primarily for cancer therapy due to their local heating properties. Luckily, that same surface heating effect can be used to efficiently create steam… and distill alcohol.